When I followed my husband to Western Nebraska, I wandered into a position as the library director and fell in love with the profession. I had finally discovered what I wanted to be when I grew up. This came, apparently, as a surprise only to myself. I had moved with 10 bookcases full of books, have been a voracious reader since I learned how, and have been known to get lost in bookstores and libraries. When I shared with friends and family how much I enjoyed working in a library, their unanimous answer was a resounding, “Duh!”
Since I assumed that we wouldn’t be spending forever in Nebraska, I decided to enroll in grad school for a second master’s, this one in library science. My background is in business and higher education; my first grad degree in Organizational Leadership. And here’s where I veer from the conventional wisdom of the library folks: as a library director, I am convinced my business degree was as much, if not more helpful, than my newly minted MSLS. Yes, it’s good to be able to chat with the catalogers and know what on earth they’re talking about. And yes, the classes I took in collection development and such have been helpful. But the bottom line is that a library director, especially in a larger library, is more a manager than a librarian.
To that argument, I would add that if library schools are going to educate folks to become librarians who will, presumably, at some point become management, they will need to add some management classes to the curriculum. It was no problem for me to deal with an annual budget, as I’d been doing it for years in the business and higher education sectors. Likewise the human resources functions that go along with management. My sales background made me a natural marketer. My acting background made me speak easily to the Rotary, Jacees, and whatever group would listen.
Yet in my MSLS program, none of these essential facets of library management was addressed. I had classmates who were terrified of actually getting a position as a library director, since they hadn’t the first idea how to deal with a budget and personnel, not to mention the occasional idiot City Manager.
And so we wonder, as a profession, why we’re not good at the politics that come with the job, why libraries don’t market themselves, and why we’re much more comfortable maintaining the status quo than instituting great change. Librarians, heal thyselves.